This is mostly for new writers, but those of us who have been around for a while do need the occasional reminder. Over the last few years, a plethora of experts in the areas we need to have our books published and selling have popped up. Everything from editors to marketing mavens are around to assist you, for a price. Before you pay that price, learn how to check out the person.
Editors: Unless you live in a cave in the middle of nowhere, you can have your manuscript read and suggestions made on how to improve it through the use of critique groups or beta readers. It’s strongly suggested that you get to know other writers willing to assist with this, rather than family and close friends, who will often pat your back and say they have never read a better book. Your mission at this point is to ready your book for submission to a publisher or to publish yourself. Therefore, you need someone who will be critical, who won’t be afraid to tell you that something doesn’t work, your sub-plot is overwhelming your main plot, or that your middle is sadly sagging and your ending doesn’t work. These people don’t have an axe to grind. All they are doing is letting you know what your readers will say once your book is published, or why a publisher doesn’t hand you a contract.
If you do decide to hire a professional editor, be prepared to pay for it. By pay, I mean that editors can run from fifty cents a page to more than fifteen dollars a page. Multiply that by the average 250 page manuscript and you can be paying anywhere from $125 to $3750 to have your book edited. And that doesn’t mean you’ll have a manuscript ready for publication. If you don’t do your due diligence when hiring an editor, you could be paying to make things worse.
How do you do this due diligence? One way is that the editor has recommendations or tributes from satisfied customers posted on their website. Those are good, but it is in your best interest to check out that information. Ask the potential editor if they are able to have several people they’ve done work for contact you. Be prepared with a list of questions about how quickly the editor worked, did they find all the problems, and was the editor someone who will discuss with you what they’ve done. Your next step should be to do a search on the editor’s name with editor behind it. You may find information indicating this is someone you don’t want to work with, or you may discover you’ve found a rare gem and are now ready to write that check.
Proofreaders: “Ha!” you proclaim. “I don’t need a proofreader. I’m perfectly capable of doing that myself.” Sure you are. You are probably the best proofreader you know. Now that we have that little bit of sarcasm out of the way, stop and think. You know your book very well. From front to back, every nuance, every bit of brilliant dialogue, every single piece of narrative is exactly how you want it. There are no misplaced words, no duplications, all the punctuation is in place. Why waste your money on a proofreader?
Here’s where a good beta reader comes in very handy. They can see the things you’ll miss—and you will miss things, because you are so familiar with your manuscript. It’s far cheaper to trade manuscripts with another author friend to proofread than it is to hire a proofreader, who you must check out as you do an editor.
Cover artist: Your book cover is the first thing a potential reader sees. It must invite them into your story, but also not give away anything important. You want the absolute best cover possible, and you’ve discovered the internet has a massive amount of cover artists who can not only create your cover, they guarantee you that any publisher will love it.
Stop! Halt! Don’t you dare commit money for an independent cover if you plan on submitting to a publisher. Chances are very good that you will have wasted that money. Publishers have cover artists on contract. These cover artists are also very good at their job. A reputable publisher won’t charge you for the cover art. In fact, if you argue the point with a publisher, you may very well find yourself with a cover you love, but no publisher willing to offer you a contract.
Marketing Mavens: A lot of book promotion these days is done via the internet. You can reach so many more people this way. But the internet can be a very confusing place for those of us who don’t spend a lot of time on it. The overabundance of websites dedicated to promoting your novel is frightening to the first time author. Many wither beneath the onslaught of terms like “Facebook fan page,” “Twitter,” “Pinterest,” “blog,” “website,” “Goodreads,” “YouTube,” “Google +,” “Instagram,” and the many, many other sites you can use for promotion. I have to admit that I was overwhelmed when I started out too, but I learned quickly, through trial and error, that the best person to depend upon to take care of your promotion is you. You know your work. You are the one most familiar with what are the best points for teasers.
If, however, you feel your day job, family obligations, and any other of a number of things will prevent you from properly marketing your book, you might want to research those who will do that for you. You will want to thoroughly check these people out. Not just glowing recommendations on their website, but seeing if they are actually doing the things people say they are. Contact their clients privately, asking if they are really well represented or does the marketer tend to slide when tweeting? Maybe they don’t attract the right type of bloggers to promote your releases. Their Facebook promotion skills might be limited to a few links a week, whereas you’re longing for the type of promotion that doesn’t always include a link to your book. Marketers aren’t cheap and you may find after a few months that they don’t improve the sales like they said they could. So, if you do decide to sign with one, insist that the contract is quarterly, with an option to leave without penalty if the individual isn’t doing their job for any reason.
Remember this piece of advice: There are many people who claim to be experts on the internet. Some may also say they have a B.A. or Masters in whatever field where they say they are the expert. A good marketer can improve your book sales and assist your with branding your name, but you can’t expect them to do the whole job. You need to be aware of anything and everything going on about your book. At the first sign of trouble with the expert you’ve hired, you should curtly inform them that you no longer require their services and move on to another method.